Headlines: July 6th, 1999

An Audit Commission survey reveals that over the last year significant improvements have been made to the youth justice system, but much more remains to be done to prevent young people from offending.

The 1998 Crime and Disorder Act introduced a number of new initiatives designed to address offending behaviour and improve the youth justice system. The Commission’s report Misspent Youth ’99 reports on the success of local authorities, the police and other local agencies in England during 1998 in implementing these changes.

One of the key aims of youth justice reform is to speed up the whole process and the survey shows significant improvements. The average time between arrest and sentence in the youth court has been reduced from 131 to 102 days. The percentage of first interviews with a young person on supervision carried out within five working days of the court order being made has risen from 50 per cent in 1997 and now stands at 80 per cent.

The report also identifies a number of areas which agencies need to address if the deadline for implementation of the Crime and Disorder Act in April 2000 is to be met. Delays between arrest and sentence in the youth court vary in different areas between 50 and 180 days. Although one-third of authorities have a mentoring scheme in their local area, one-quarter of youth justice managers had difficulty in getting access to it.

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